In less than a week, a second Supreme Court judge today lost his cool after lawyers tried to outshout each other and refused to hear a case, saying the court now needed to act tough against such advocates.
A bench of Justices A K Sikri and Ashok Bhushan refused to hear a batch of petitions related to embattled firm Pearls Agrotech Corporation Ltd (PACL) and posted them for further hearing in the second week of February.
It all started when the bench was hearing arguments from senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for petitioner PACL, and a lady lawyer, appearing for the respondents, intervened allegedly in a high-pitch voice.
“When one senior lawyer is speaking,there is no point for another lawyer to shout. I am otherwise very patient man but I am allergic to this type of argument. We can’t tolerate this,” Justice Sikri, who was heading the bench, said.
“It is high time for courts to act tough against shouting lawyers to maintain discipline and decorum of court proceedings,” he said, adding that the courts need to be tough against lawyers shouting in courts.
The bench deferred the hearing of matter in second week of February saying it will not hear the case if the arguments were made at the bar in this manner.
Singhvi said that the PACL should not be penalised (PACL) for no fault of theirs, but the bench refused to budge from its order and said the matter will be heard in February.
On December 7, Chief Justice Dipak Misra had warned the shouting advocates by observing that “it will not be tolerated at any cost” and raising their voice “just shows inadequacy and incompetence”.
When a five-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra was hearing a legal question whether a Parsi woman loses her religious identity after marrying a man of different religion, it got upset over growing incidents of senior lawyers arguing on a high pitch in cases like the Babri Masjid title suit and the Delhi-Centre disputes.
The CJI had then observed: “Come what may, shouting in the courtroom will not be tolerated at any cost”.
“Lawyers are traditionally called ministers of justice. Unfortunately a small group of lawyers think they can raise their voice…argue with authority and conviction. Raising your voice just shows inadequacy and incompetence,” the CJI had said, adding that some senior members of the Bar have been indulging in high pitch arguments.
The bench had then said, “when lawyers argue in a manner not in tune with the constitutional language, we will tolerate it but for how long? If the Bar does not regulate itself, we will be compelled to regulate”.
Incidentally, Justice Sikri and Justice Bhushan were also part of that five-judge constitution bench headed by CJI.
On July 25 last year, the apex court had restrained PACL and its promoters from disposing of its properties both in India and abroad after SEBI had alleged that the company has siphoned off 98 million dollars in Australia.
PACL Ltd and its promoters and directors, including Nirmal Singh Bhangoo, have been embroiled in a legal battle for their alleged failure to refund Rs 49,100 crore to investors, an amount collected through chit funds schemes.
The apex court had earlier asked PACL to approach the panel appointed by it to monitor the sale of assets and refund of money to the investors, for any relief for release of funds.
It had on February 2, last year, appointed the panel headed by former Chief Justice of India R M Lodha to monitor the sale of assets of the company and refund of money to the investors of PACL.
The apex court had directed that title deeds of various lands of PACL should be handed over by CBI to SEBI, which shall accordingly take appropriate steps to ensure their sale for the purpose of refunding the money to the investors.
SEBI has initiated recovery proceedings against the group and its promoters and directors.
Earlier, SEBI had passed a refund order against various PACL group companies after holding them guilty of illegitimately pooling funds from the public through a collective investment scheme.
SEBI had found that PACL had collected money from crores of investors through unauthorised collective investment schemes in the name of real estate projects and some agricultural land-related schemes.